ANNAPOLIS – It takes money to raise money, goes the political adage. Candidates strive for name recognition and voter education as key campaign strategies. One way to accomplish that is through printed materials.
As Del. Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore, chairman of the Commerce and Government Matters Committee put it: “Printing is a big part of running a campaign. What politics is all about is promotion.”
Promotion through print cost a quarter of a million dollars, or 16 percent of the nearly $1.5 million spent by 19 General Assembly committee chairs and floor leaders in 1994. Of the printing total, 20 percent went to Bromwell Press, a company owned by the Senate Finance committee chairman’s cousin.
In fact, among individual recipients, only the U.S. Postmaster garnered more `94 campaign dollars.
Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, D-Baltimore, accounted for two- thirds of Bromwell Press’s total. He told Capital News Service that he’s been using the printer since entering politics 20 years ago and acknowledged that the family connection is one of the reasons.
“My Uncle Bud started it and I had to use it,” Bromwell said. “My uncle would’ve kicked my butt if I didn’t.”
But Bromwell said the printer’s “bug,” or union label, which goes on all material produced by the press, is equally important.
“I’m endorsed by unions,” Bromwell said, “And my dad was a union bricklayer.”
Bromwell’s cousin Kent Bromwell, who owns the press, said his cousin “and a lot of other people want to get the union label on their campaign literature because of the labor vote.”
The union affiliation is also important to Curran, who uses Bromwell and several other printers for his campaign materials.
“The union constituency, which is a large part of my constituency, likes to see that union `bug’,” Curran said.
Indeed, on the rare occasions he was unable to use a union printer, Curran said he heard complaints from constituents who received the mailing without the union label.
Sen. Norman R. Stone, D-Baltimore County, also chose Bromwell Press, because “I’m very pro-labor.” But once C & A Printers unionized, Stone switched presses. “It’s closer to me in the neighborhood,” Stone said, “And I know the owner personally.”
Stone looks for quality, speed and reliability, in addition to the printer’s “bug.”
Although Sen. Barbara A. Hoffmann, D-Baltimore County, does not use Bromwell Press, she does consider the union label a deciding factor.
“That’s probably a holdover from my days as Maryland Democratic Party executive director,” said the Budget and Taxation committee chairwoman.
However, Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, R-Baltimore County, another Bromwell Press patron, said the union label didn’t really matter to him. “I’m a Republican,” Boozer stressed. “I don’t care where it goes as long as they get the job done.”
Del. Howard P. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, racked up the highest ’94 campaign print expenditure. He explained that much of his outlay came from countering what he called “smear campaigns” against him by teachers’ and other labor unions.
“I made a conscious decision that voters who voted regularly in my district would receive at least seven or eight contacts from my campaign, ” Rawlings said. The “contacts,” including mailed letters, brochures and door-to-door and rally handouts, were to “give a more balanced view of me and my work.”
In selecting a printer, Rawlings tries “to get the best bargain of cost and quality.” Although he said he has a “good voting record on union issues,” Rawlings does not consider a union “bug” essential to his choice. More important, he said, is African-American and other minority ownership.
But a survey of his top three print vendors for ’94 indicated none is minority owned, although his top vendor – Kogan Printcrafters – is a union shop.
Capital News Service also examined print expenses for 1996, a non-election or “off” year. Not surprisingly, the ’96 printing total was one-third the election year tab. The top two spenders were Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany.
When Miller was contacted by phone, he expressed dismay at the subject of this story. “I could see if it was meals,” Miller said, “but printing — what’s the point?”
Without referring to his records, Miller said he could not answer CNS’s question about what is printed in an off-year. Then he terminated the call. When Taylor was queried on the same subject, he said custom- printed Christmas cards, an annual outlay, and campaign committee stationery consumed most of his ’96 print money. “I reached more people with Christmas cards than ads,” the speaker said. -30-